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Understanding the Malaria Scourge

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. Malaria mostly spreads to people through the bites of some infected female Anopheles mosquitoes and these insects can be found in the Kruger National Park. The risk of contracting malaria is often a concern when visiting the Kruger National Park. The Kruger is one of the two South African National Parks that are situated in malaria risk areas. Though, the risk of malaria in both parks is usually low, even in the summer months.


Anopheles Freeborni Mosquito
Global Health, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria

During the rainy months near the Kruger National Park (October - April) there is an increased risk of infection. By the end of the rainy season (April), the risk of infection is very low! However, it is always recommended to take malaria prophylaxis when visiting the Kruger Park. During the day, there is no risk of being infected, the malaria mosquito is only active during the night in areas up to 600 meters above sea level.


Transmission


Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria and they must have been infected through a previous blood meal taken from an infected person. When a mosquito bites an infected person, a small amount of blood is taken in which contains microscopic malaria parasites. About 1 week later, when the mosquito takes its next blood meal, these parasites mix with the mosquito’s saliva and are injected into the person being bitten.


Because the malaria parasite is found in red blood cells of an infected person, malaria can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, organ transplant, or the shared use of needles or syringes contaminated with blood. Malaria may also be transmitted from a mother to her unborn infant before or during delivery (“congenital” malaria).


The probability of being stung by an Anopheles mosquito in the Kruger National Park is at 1 - 24,000. The risk is very low, but don’t play down the problem. 10% of all malaria cases are caused because guests have not taken any precautionary measures.


Symptoms


The most common early symptoms of malaria are fever, headache and chills. Symptoms usually start within 10–15 days of getting bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms may be mild for some people, especially for those who have had a malaria infection before.

Most people, at the beginning of the disease, have fever, sweats, chills, headaches, malaise, muscles aches, nausea, and vomiting. Malaria can very rapidly become a severe and life-threatening disease. The surest way for you and your health-care provider to know whether you have malaria is to have a diagnostic test where a drop of your blood is examined under the microscope for the presence of malaria parasites.


Severe symptoms include:

· extreme tiredness and fatigue

· impaired consciousness

· multiple convulsions

· difficulty breathing

· dark or bloody urine

· jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)

· abnormal bleeding.


People with severe symptoms should get emergency care right away. Getting treatment early for mild malaria can stop the infection from becoming severe.


It’s Curable


It’s important to start treating malaria as soon as possible. Your doctor will prescribe medications to kill the malaria parasite. Some parasites are resistant to malaria drugs, so some drugs are given in combination with other drugs. The type of parasite will determine what type of medication you take and how long you take it.


Antimalarial drugs include:

Artemisinin drugs (artemether and artesunate). The best treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria, if available, is artemisinin combination therapy.

Atovaquone (Mepron®)

Chloroquine. There are parasites that are resistant to this medication

Doxycycline (Doxy-100®, Monodox®, Oracea®)

Mefloquine

Quinine

Primaquine


Most types of mosquito that are encountered will not carry the malaria parasite and if an individual is bitten it does not mean that they will contract malaria. There is a doctor based at Skukuza Camp, one of the main rest camps, should you need to see one for any reason while you’re staying at Kruger National Park.


Bug Spray

Avoiding those Pesky Mosquito Bites


The highest risk time for Kruger malaria is during the summer / rainy season which is from October to around the end of March. The best prevention is avoidance! All accommodation in the park has fly screens on the doors and windows. Keep them closed so the mosquitoes stay out of your room. Most accommodation have air conditioning which is very effective at keeping mosquitos at bay as they cant fly around when there is rotational airflow through the rooms.


Cover up in the evenings with long sleeves and long pants. Mosquitoes are also attracted to dark clothes. Try to wear something light-coloured. Sometimes it’s hard to cover up in summer when it’s nice and warm.


Wear insect repellent, especially at dawn, dusk and at night, even while you’re sleeping. It’s a good idea to use a citronella candle at meal times too. This type of candle repels mozzies.


In the Kruger National Park, malaria is a risk. Don’t forget your malaria tablets!


Winter is now around the corner and the rainy season over, most of those annoying mosquitos are gone, it’s a perfect time to visit and explore the Kruger National Park, join us at Nhongo Safaris!

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